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but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. – 1 Peter 3:4 (ESV)
Gentle and quiet are not adjectives that describe me. I am strong-willed, outspoken, and assertive—nothing gentle or quiet about it!
So, when I read 1 Peter 3:4, which calls for a godly woman to have a gentle and quiet spirit, I was caught off guard.
Gentleness and quietness made me more nervous than submission and all the other attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman. If anyone in my life were to describe me in a few words, ‘gentle’ and ‘quiet’ would not be among their adjectives. Things like ‘bold”, “bodacious,” ‘independent’ or ‘strong-willed’ would be more like it, so if a verse that calls for you to have a quiet and gentle spirit makes you feel inadequate, I felt as if I could never live up to that, either.
After studying this verse and the context of it further and as well as reading more about this concept, I realized the reason for my anxiety was because of a lack of understanding, not a lack of ability.
I let doubt get the best of me and began to ask myself all sorts of questions, such as “am I good enough?” Doubt overtook my heart and mind.
So, what does it mean to have a gentle and quiet spirit, and how do we apply it to our lives?
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “gentle and quiet spirit?” Do you picture strengths or weaknesses? An opinionated woman or a doormat? Boldness, mild-mannered-ness; these qualities don’t seem like they should go hand in hand.
But there’s so much more than meets the eye here because what we really need is balance. To me, it feels natural that someone with an opinion can also be gentle and kind, but where does this leave people who are shy by nature–or even those of us who have opinions yet still try to show love for all humankind regardless of our own personal feelings toward others’ beliefs which may differ from ours.
Society places a lot of emphasis on outward appearance and actions. But internal transformation creates consistency in your external behavior. Gentleness, and quietness, are character traits that we develop over time but it is difficult to measure heart growth so attention gets placed on behaviors instead- which can be problematic because then the Bible becomes subject to interpretation according to personal preference or conviction rather than God’s word.
1 Peter 3:4 is one verse where we need to dig deeper to understand what God is telling us here. We truly need to take a deeper look at this verse in the context of biblical and historical perspectives.
What Society Says is a Gentle And Quiet Spirit
Society is full of noise, and everyone has an opinion. People speak out against injustice and fight for human rights. Many use their voice loudly because they believe that it is the loudest that gets results. Many believe that being a quiet and gentle spirit means getting overrun by strong opinions or those being the loudest.
Even being weak when faced with adversity, there’s an implicit assumption that loudness creates a response: anger seems ubiquitous (such as the trash-talking that occurs on a sports field). David, however, proved this assumption wrong when he killed Goliath — strength does not equate with success or who can be the loudest.
Is it possible that this society is lacking in gentleness? Impatience fuels the flames of road rage. The cashier’s face twists with annoyance as he rings up your groceries. You turn to demand and get what you want, forgetting politeness along the way. Your children are crying because they failed an exam or missed their goal; instead of comforting them gently as we should, we lash out at our kids, saying, “I told you so.”
We’ve all either done at least one of these or experienced the other end of it. It feels like gentleness equates to being a doormat, and we certainly don’t want people walking all over us, right?
What the Church Says about Having a Gentle and Quiet Spirit
The church tends to focus on outward behavior. And this isn’t because they don’t care about the inward hearts of men and women. It’s a residue leftover from our lives before Christ, but “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work” (Hebrews 6:10).
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. – Hebrews 6:10 (ESV)
Churches should realize that when they focus on lists of do’s and don’ts, it only creates a one-dimensional view of women. The truth is that a gentle and quiet spirit comes from the inside, not just from behavior and outside appearances.
Gentleness isn’t always a sign of weakness. Sometimes, the gentlest among us are those who know how to speak up and defend themselves but do so with kindness rather than harsh words or violence.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. – Matthew 5:39 (ESV)
But what about verses like turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41), and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)? In fact, didn’t Jesus tell us to do all of those things, in the same sermon?
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, – Matthew 5:44 (ESV)
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. – Matthew 5:41 (ESV)
What does it feel like to have a gentle spirit? What is the best way to show this quality in Christianity, and how can we do that without losing our confidence or assertiveness?
When Jesus was on earth, he exemplified what having a gentle spirit looks like through his actions of helping others with their physical needs while at the same time being confident enough not to be cowed by those who were speaking against him despite knowing they could inflict harm upon Him.
What God Says About Having a Quiet and Gentle Spirit
To better understand this concept, we need to look at the context of what was happening during this time in history and in Roman culture.
Roman women competed with one another in the area of fashion. They placed great emphasis on elaborate hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing. It’s like an immaculate house exterior, but the inside holds rotting stairs and layers of dust.
Roman women’s commitment to their appearance led them to neglect their inner selves; they put all their time into looking good instead of taking care of or tending to who they are as a person from within.
Peter, in 1 Peter 3:4, states that a gentle and quiet spirit is unfading to God. He’s not implying women can’t wear fashionable jewelry or speak up. He’s referring specifically to the state of their spirit, which affects how they behave.
The derivative of the Hebrew word for quiet comes from three words: shaqat, sha’ar, and nachath. These words mean: undisturbed, at ease, and set on. The Greek word, hesuchazo, indicates action as one refrains from quarrelsome behavior.
The Old Testament used word pictures to define gentleness, such as streams of water, humility, yielding when necessary, and more. We can define gentleness as a sensitive disposition and kindness toward others.
We see this demonstrated in the New Testament in Jesus’ character and behavior as well as in the charge to cultivate gentleness as a fruit of the spirit.
Jesus exemplified the quiet and gentle spirit in at least three ways:
- It’s not always the easiest, but a person with a quiet and gentle spirit recognizes that sometimes difficult times are necessary. Throughout Jesus’ life, he obeyed his Father even when it led to death (Philippians 2:8). A quiet and gentle spirit abides by God’s plan in all cases –even if those plans lead us into hardship or despair.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:8 (ESV)
- Second, someone with a quiet and gentle spirit has the ability to meditate on God’s word. A loud and busy world can distract us from listening for His whisper so we should always find time in our day to take some deep breaths of peace.
Jesus knew this well as he spent his years preaching, often surrounded by large crowds, yet still often withdrew into solitude during this time, carving out space for Himself with the Heavenly Father.
- Jesus, the meek-spirited man with a gentle heart who walked this earth 2 thousand years ago, showed his followers that one does not have to be loud and boisterous to lead. The kind of person who exudes humility is often seen as weak or incapable, but Jesus proved time after time what it meant to lead with a gentle and quiet spirit, speak up for those without voices, and fight against injustice on behalf of others.
Jesus was an unusual leader when compared to common expectations today–a quiet spirit does not prevent someone from being able to take charge successfully.
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:7
The form you have selected does not exist.
Becoming a Quiet and Gentle Spirit
Let’s get one important thing out of the way, first: a quiet and gentle spirit has nothing to do with one’s personality. The loudest and most outgoing person can have a very gentle and quiet spirit. The quietest person can have the most tempestuous spirit. We develop these traits over time, with the Holy Spirit as our guide, and, as we do, our behaviors reflect what’s in our spirit.
A serene heart is what changes the way we act. When things don’t go our way, do we lash out in anger or trust? It’s a choice that only comes from having a gentle and quiet spirit.
Gentleness is power under control. When I picture gentleness, I see Jesus with a commanding authority who gently leads and gains respect from those around him. The gentle voice of wisdom that commands your attention even when it’s accompanied by the most loving affection wrapped up in peace-keeping love!
Gentleness may feel like a weakness to some, but strength lies within its ability to endure all things without resentment or retaliation. It takes courage for both people and nations if they are going to survive this world intact because anger can be our downfall as well – whether we use force or kindness against others.
A gentle word can calm the most bitter response. That is the power of controlling the tongue. To be gentle is not saying what we might want to say, no matter how much we want to say it, or how true it is. Gentleness is knowing when to speak and when to stay silent and being okay with both. It is also speaking the truth in love.
A gentle and quiet spirit is not about my personality, but rather, my heart, my attitude, and my actions.
Having a gentle and quiet spirit is nothing more than simply becoming more like Christ and humbly letting His work in your heart shine through to the world.
The form you have selected does not exist.
You may enjoy this brief video about a gentle and quiet spirit and how you can develop one by Kris Reece.
I also suggest these recommended resources for the deeper study of a meek and gentle spirit:
Because He Lives,
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”